Tochigi midfielder Fukasawa Koji may be under contract through February, but he now is looking at other options as that club can not afford to keep him. As previously mentioned through my advice and invitation he stayed with me for a couple of nights as he would attempt to get noticed by this city's pro team. He wouldn't be alone though, of course.
The club had to deal with a field full of hopefuls from all ranges of Japanese soccer. Many uniforms were represented... Assume the pro teams were cut players:
-JEF United Chiba
And the others are hoping for a taste as a professional:
-Yokohama Sports and Culture Club
-(North) Korea University
-Ryutsu Keizai University
-Mito First High School
-and a good 20 or so full amateurs with no affiliation
There were so many trialists that all were organized into 10 full squads and the tryout could only encompass exhibition matches between them. Each player's tryout would be a mere 25 minute match in which to try to impress. From these five short exhibition matches, the team staff would choose 2 keepers, 6 defenders, 4 defensive midfielders, 4 offensive midfielders, and 4 forwards to get a closer look the next day. Only 22 players... one-fifth of the total, and much tougher for underrepresented positions.
Fukasawa would play in the last trial of the morning and with the time until then, I drove him around the city to show him the lifestyle. While others were taking an early train and walking from the station, he could have a comfortable sleep and ride to the ground. While others sat in the grass or concrete in cold overcast for hours to play a quick match, he could see the sites and casually relax in a heated environment. Throughout the weekend, I'd like to think that this was somewhat of a help.
When it came time, we went back to the field and he would prepare to take his usual left side midfielder position. I reiterated my advice on what Mito was looking for... Hard pressing, intercepting passes, solid through passing, and taking smart shots when possible. He did just that, and stood out well in the group in all areas despite the understandably selfish play by all on the pitch. He came off the field dejected, sure that his chance went by and that he'd have to tour the country looking for a club to take him.
When the 22 names were announced, Fukasawa was shocked to hear that he was called. I wasn't.
The rest of the day, Fukasawa wanted to take it easy, so I took him to Mito's massive shopping center, where at a buffet I was amazed how someone almost half my size could eat almost twice as much. He also wanted to see some aquatic animals, so I took him to Pet Island Tomony which has Japan's largest variety of pet fish, and then to the lake just by my home where the swans and ducks happily mingle with the people.
That evening he went to the public baths while I, out of courtesy to those lucky enough to have proper vision, stayed home to watch a rerun of the Iwata-Sendai match.
After a good nine hours of sleep, I drove him back to the ground where this time the two newly formed trial teams would have 2 35 minute matches in cold drizzling rain. The first one had Fukasawa play as a defender, which he had never done before. He did well, but honestly kept midfielder form and didn't take on the defender responsibilities so well. The second had him in his typical place, and he played solidly. There were some flashier players who had more ball time but I'm confident that the coaches could see his worth.
From then, he came back to my home to pack up and drive back to an Utsunomiya meeting. On the way, a short distance from my home, a group of black and white swans crossed the road. I stopped the car and he took some pictures and said goodbye to them.
The team might take a few players from the tryout, or ten, or none. There's no way to know until each player is contacted individually. He promised to let me know as soon as he hears.
Apparently he felt compelled to write about the experience where he was far too kind in talking about me:
Koji Fukasawa in Mito